With a trip to the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals on the line, Minnesota United failed to take advantage of its plethora of opportunities — including a late penalty kick — and was knocked out of the tournament by the Houston Dynamo, 1-0, in Monday’s Round of 16 match-up.
Head Coach Adrian Heath learned a lot of “valuable” lessons about his group in the loss, lessons he said will affect how his team approaches the upcoming transfer windows.
“Obviously we’re disappointed,” Heath said. “I thought it was a little bit too late. I learned a valuable lesson today about this group, both individually and collectively, that will certainly help us moving forward. We’ve got to the stage now where we have to start to make some difficult and hard decisions on people and that is what we will do. I think tonight will turn out to be a really good night in the long term.”
Minnesota’s attack forced Houston onto its back foot in the opening 15-20 minutes, but struggled to place the final ball. The Loons found space in the midfield, which midfielder Darwin Quintero used to set up the Loons best chances of the first half. In the 12th minute, Quintero played the ball in to forward Christian Ramirez who dropped it to midfielder Rasmus Schuller at the top of the box for a shot that sailed high and wide. The Colombian followed that effort in the 16th minute with a low cross that just missed a Ramirez run to the near post.
With MNUFC unable to capitalize on its pair of early chances, the Dynamo began to settle in and turn the tide in their favor. Houston forward Mauro Manotas pushed chances wide in both the 25th and 26th minutes and midfielder Luis Gil had a 32nd minute chance from 27 yards out turned away by Minnesota goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth.
After averting danger, Quintero created one more opportunity in the 41st minute by dancing around defenders in the box, but he put too much on a short cross to Ramirez as Minnesota — despite its host of chances — settled for a scoreless first half.
All of those missed openings proved costly as Houston grabbed the match’s first and only lead just after halftime. Defender Adam Lundqvist's corner service was headed home by Manotas in the 47th minute, which proved to be all the offense the hosts needed to advance to next month’s quarterfinals.
Trailing by one, Heath opted to bring on midfielders Alexi Gomez and Frantz Pangop in the 62nd minute in hopes of sparking the attack. Pangop’s energy off of the bench was especially noticeable and he nearly found forward Mason Toye at the center of a goal with a cross in the 82nd minute, but the rookie was unable to get his left foot on it.
The Loons’ best chance to equalize, though, came in the 87th minute as midfielder Miguel Ibarra drew a penalty by drawing contact in the box after putting himself in a good position to receive a cross from Gomez. With a late chance to draw level, Quintero stepped up and attempted to thread the shot from the spot into the top right corner but it rang off of the post instead and took the Loons’ hopes of advancing with it.
“We have to re-group,” Heath said. “The most important thing now is to watch the game again and see if it reinforces a lot of the very strong opinions I have about certain things that we’ve done or haven’t done —haven’t done is probably the best word — this evening. We will see where we go from there.”
With its USOC campaign over, Minnesota United returns to MLS play on Saturday, June 23 at 8:00 p.m. CT on the road against Colorado Rapids. Pre-match coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. on FOX Sports North, streaming on FOX Sports Go and on MNUFC Radio on 1500 ESPN.
Minnesota United FC Starting XI: GK Bobby Shuttleworth; D Tyrone Mears, Michael Boxall, Brent Kallman, Carter Manley (Alexi Gomez 62’); M Rasmus Schuller, Collin Martin (Frantz Pangop 62’), Collen Warner; F Miguel Ibarra, Darwin Quintero, Christian Ramirez (Mason Toye 75’)
MIN Unused Subs: GK GK Alex Kapp; D Wyatt Omsberg; M Harrision Heath, M Maximiano
Houston Dynamo Starting XI: GK Chris Seitz; D Philippe Senderos, Alejandro Fuenmayor, Adam Lundqvist, Kevin Garcia; M Eric Bird, Eric Alexander, Arturo Alvarez (Tomas Martinez 83’), Luis Gil, Memo Rodriguez (Romell Quioto 72’); F Mauro Manotas (Alberth Elis 60’)
HOU Unused Subs: GK Michael Nelson; D Conor Donovan; M Todd Wharton; F Aldo Quintanilla
47’ – Manotas (Lundqvist) – HOU
67’ – Boxall (YC) – MIN
89’ – Fuenmayor (YC) – HOU
90’ – Seitz (YC) – HOU
90+’- Kallman (YC) – MIN